Nats pound Pirates as lineup gets healthier
NATIONALS 9, PIRATES 3
pittsburgh — It has been some time since Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams could fill out a lineup card with the names of many of his expected everyday players. In fact, the Nationals’ projected eight have not been in the same lineup at any point this season.
But slowly, the team is returning toward normalcy. For the first time in a month, Anthony Rendon was back, hitting second and playing second base. Yunel Escobar returned after missing two games with a sore wrist.
But in a way, Saturday’s 9-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates served as a reminder about the players that helped the Nationals get this far. As a lead slipped away, Ian Desmond cracked a two-run home run in the seventh to put the Nationals at ease again. Michael A. Taylor played stellar defense and drove in three runs, including a two-run home run of his own. Gio Gonzalez was solid over five-plus innings, but reliever Felipe Rivero stole the spotlight with a dazzling 11/3 innings of fireballing relief.
Fairly soon, the Nationals will welcome back Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, likely before the July 31 trade deadline. But the biggest addition may be Desmond, simply playing up to his ability.
Since the beginning of the key series against the New YorkMets earlier this week, Desmond is 10 for 19 with four home runs, four walks and seven RBI. While he has struggled much of the season at the plate in likely his final season for the Nationals, Des-
mond has been an important presence in the Nationals’ clubhouse, a caring teammate, a good base runner and a capable defender.
Another up-and-down player, but a vital figure, in the Nationals’ season also helped carry them to victory on Saturday. Taylor has improved with each passing month. He played stellar defense to help snare deep flyballs given up by Gonzalez. He also showed that he can deliver in difficult spots at the plate.
Taylor first came through in a key spot in the fourth inning. Escobar doubled to lead off the frame, one of his three hits. Clint Robinson was hit by a pitch, and Desmond put down a sacrifice bunt. Pirates starter A. J. Burnett then hit Jose Lobaton with a pitch to load the bases.
Burnett struck out Matt den Dekker. With two strikes, Gonzalez hit a comebacker to Burnett that hit Burnett’s foot and trickled away, allowing Escobar to score. So Taylor came up to hit with two outs and the bases loaded. He hit a low 2-2 curveball to left field to give the Nationals a 3- 0 lead.
After Robinson scored, third base coach Bob Henley waved Lobaton home from second base. Starling Marte easily threw out Lobaton at home to end the inning. Taylor padded the lead in the eighth inning when he smashed a two-run home run to center field, giving the Nationals the winning sixrun margin.
Before the key home runs by Desmond and Taylor, the Nationals let the Pirates back into the game in the sixth inning. Gonzalez cruised through the first five innings but then stumbled. He gave up a single to start the sixth, and Robinson committed an error to put two runners on base. Marte and Andrew McCutchen each singled in a run to chase Gonzalez from the game.
Aaron Barrett came on in relief and got two outs before giving up another run. Williams replaced Barrett with Rivero, who fired 97- and 98-mph fastballs to escape the jam and then tossed another scoreless frame. Rivero then gave way to Tanner Roark, who threw two scoreless innings to complete the game.
Other Nationals fill- ins turned regulars also contributed. Robinson’s RBI single in the fifth gave the Nationals a 4- 0 lead, and den Dekker singled and scored on Rendon’s sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.
Nationals center fielder Michael A. Taylor runs down a flyball off the bat of Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco in the first inning of Washington’s 9-3 win in Pittsburgh. Taylor went 4 for 5 at the plate to lead a Nationals offense that pounded out nine runs on 14 hits.
Nats shortstop Ian Desmond is congratulated after hitting a home run in the seventh inning.